Summary: This is the fifth message in the series. This sermon deals with the two directions or path for those who have died. The path of the unbeliever and the believer. For the believer it is a trip to heaven. For the unbeliever, it is a trip towards judgment
ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS OF SCRIPTURE
What Happens After We Die?
A young business owner was opening a new branch office, and a friend decided to send a floral arrangement for the grand opening. When the friend arrived at the opening, he was appalled to find that his wreath bore the inscription: “Rest in peace.”
Angry, he complained to the florist. After apologizing, the florist said, “Look at it this way—somewhere a man was buried under a wreath today that said, ‘Good luck in your new location.’“
Our neighbor’s cat was run over by a car, and the mother quickly disposed of the remains before her four-year-old son Billy found out about it. After a few days, though, Billy finally asked about the cat.
“Billy, the cat died,” his mother explained. “But it’s all right. He’s up in heaven with God.”
The boy asked, “What in the world would God want with a dead cat?”
One of the age old questions – What happens after we die? This has been the subject of much confusion. Much of the problem answering this question is a result of not wanting to deal realistically with the thought of death, or the thought of judgment. To the point, some have tried to dismiss an afterlife, or to skew the Scripture into declaring that certain aspects of what happens after death are merely misinterpretations, or scare tactics meant to capture and imprison the otherwise free mind of man.
What is important to realize, is that what happens after death is by divine institution, or sovereignty! As such, we do not have a say in what happens, only the opportunity to prepare for it. Our preparation now, is essential. There is not opportunity after we have died.
I DEFINING OUR TERMS (the Scripture uses four terms defining where we go after we die)
A Hell: The most common term used to describe the future punishment of the wicked. The Greek word is “Gehenna” and refers to a place in the Valley of Hinnom where human sacrifices had been offered and where rubbish is burned. It is a geographical term and has the final state of the unsaved in view
Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ’Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ’You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
B Sheol: The most frequently used word, it describes the place of all those who have died until the time of the resurrection. It is not a state of existence, but a place of conscious existence. Sheol makes no distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous.
Psalm 16:10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Proverbs 9:18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
C Hades: This is the New Testament counterpart to the word Sheol. In general it refers to the unseen world, but specifically to the place of the unsaved dead between death and the final judgment. This is a different word than Hell (Gehenna). This is a temporary place, while hell is a permanent place.
Luke 16:23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
Rev. 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
D The Lake of Fire: This refers to the eternal state of the unsaved. Forever separated from God, consigned to a special abode of suffering because they rejected Christ. Scripture also refers to this as the second death.
II WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BELIEVER AFTER DEATH?